Announcement comes 1 day after Maher outs GOP leader; Mehlman says resignation has been planned since last summer
WASHINGTON Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, whose party lost both chambers of Congress in the midterm elections, will step down from his post when his two-year term ends in January, GOP officials said Nov. 9.
The announcement came one day after comedian Bill Maher, host of the HBO talk show “Real Time,” outed Mehlman as a gay man in an interview on CNN’s “Larry King Live.”
Democrats won control of the House and Senate on Nov. 7 by capitalizing on voter frustration with President Bush, the war in Iraq and the scandal-scarred Congress. Democrats also took a majority of governors’ posts and gained a decisive edge in state legislatures.
But Ken Mehlman told The Washington Times that he had decided to step down last summer and his resignation was not prompted by the GOP loss of both houses of Congress in the midterm elections.
During his tenure, Mehlman, 40, traveled extensively to promote the Republican agenda. When he became chairman in January 2005, he said he hoped to tighten the GOP’s grip on power in Washington.
“Nothing is permanent in politics,” he said then. “The goal is how do you both in the short term and the long term do things to make it sustainable?”
Mehlman also said then that he hoped to expand the GOP base and help Bush enact his agenda. Last year, Mehlman told NAACP members that the Republican Party was wrong for ignoring the black vote for decades and said he hoped the groups could restore their historic bond.
“Some Republicans gave up on winning the African-American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization,” Mehlman said at the NAACP convention. “I come here as Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong.”
A prot?g? of Bush’s top political adviser, Karl Rove, Mehlman became RNC chairman after managing Bush’s re-election campaign in 2004, when the president won re-election and Republicans expanded their majorities in the House and the Senate. Before that campaign, he served as White House political director under Rove. In 2000, he served as national field director for Bush’s first presidential campaign, charged with coordinating the efforts of GOP leaders in every state.
Previous to that, he worked on Capitol Hill and practiced environmental law in Washington.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, November 17, 2006.